Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Brass-Set & Drift

May 1, 2006

(http://www.myspace.com/brasslungs) Brass – Set & Drift

Self-released

Alternative indie-rock that is well performed but lacks lasting appeal.

I hate name-dropping “alternative.” But sometimes that’s all one can do to describe a band’s sound. Brass is that kind of indie rock group: an “alternative” one. Brass pulls off the alternative genre more effectively than most bands you hear on the radio, however. For being essentially self-produced in every fashion (even their screen printed CD booklets are DIY), they sound surprisingly polished. Their instrumentals and vocals are never nervous or amateur. However, I feel that with all their talent, Brass appears to unfortunately be taking the traditional alternative indie band path, and that path is overcrowded, overdone and lacks any real zest.

Brass’s instrumentals could be described as minimalist, and the songs are designed so they take a backseat to Joe Webber’s singing and lyrics. Joe Webber’s voice is quite good, and his voice never battles the instrumentals for priority. The same formula can be heard in most bands, but Brass’s execution does not leave them without an identity or character. The two best tracks on Set & Drift are “Autumn Hex Signs” and “The Optimist.” “Autumn Hex Signs” gets to lyrics right off the bat, which is surprising for an opening track of an alternative rock album. Usually one is subjected to an “epic” minimalist instrumental entrance which transitions into the singing. But Set & Drift decides to shove the listeners into its raw intensity. Before the listener is able to digest the sound, Brass slows down the tempo and lets the listeners collect their breath. It’s an exciting set-up which guarantees that the listener will not be bored with their first taste of the album. Unfortunately, it makes the rest pale in comparison.

“The Optimist” takes a much more tried and trued formula for its sound, but invites some interesting lyrics. In the chorus Webber sings, “Ever the optimist/ with every heat attack I see/ adopt a new belief.” As the speaker struggles with finding something positive in life, the singer also struggles with the raw and bleak instrumentals that he almost battles at some points. It’s a neat, subtle contrast that shows that Brass is definitely thoughtful with their sound.

The first two tracks do not speak for the rest of the album, however. Brass is too liberal with their instrumentals. Some songs become a bit longer than they should be, which makes it a bit of a laborious listen. Overall, I really am impressed with Brass’s technique and execution, but I fear that they, like many alternative indie bands, will be forgotten by time.

Tim Wallen

wallentw@hendrix.edu

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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